By Fabiola Ferrero / VII Mentor Program
Women holding babies are a common view in the streets of Cúcuta, where they come looking for medical treatment and food. Over half of the people who cross the border claim health reasons.
The local hospital, Erasmo Meoz, is overwhelmed by the amount of Venezuelans asking for medical care, and around 60% of their patients are Venezuelans. Hundreds of kids in serious medical conditions make it to their emergency room, mainly with malnutrition, diarrhea, meningitis, and leukemia. The hospital is facing debts and financial challenges to keep up with the demand of their neighbors in crisis, who escape an 85% shortage of medicine and the highest inflation in the world.
Freidermar cut her hair at the border to get $10, enough for a bus ticket, María has improvised a house made with zinc in the outskirts of Cúcuta, Yosmary is trying to keep her baby alive after she lost her first child due to malnutrition.
The Colombian border with Venezuela is overwhelmed by the number of people crossing each day. Around 70,000 people walk through the Simón Bolívar International Bridge that connects both countries, and over 1 million Venezuelans are living in Colombia. After the economic breakdown that started getting worse in 2014 with the drop in oil prices, the diaspora has turned into a humanitarian call for help that is affecting the whole South American region. People take whatever they are wearing, and jump on a bus to Cúcuta, the border town, in the hope of finding food, medicine, and maybe a life outside Venezuela’s despair.